Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween With Food Allergies

Halloween with a kid who has food allergies.

Yep, this is going to be interesting.

The advantages are a few 
  1. He is 10
  2. He understands that he cannot eat anything
  3. The primary focus has not been on the candy, rather having fun
  4. He is 10
But, he is missing out on a lot of the normal merriment that we have on this day.  

His school doesn't celebrate it, so no class party, no dressing up, no treats.  And, to be honest, I'm fine with that.  He seems to be fine with that as well.  

To make is special for him I made gelatin jigglers that are safe for him to eat.

Gluten Free
Dairy Free
Soy Free

They are also preservative free and nut free.  Actually, they are healthy.  

I follow Mama Naturals recipe, with a few modifications.  I'll link it at the bottom of the post.

First, you need juice.  But, not just ANY juice.  Let us pause one moment as you dig out whatever juice you have in your fridge and look at the ingredient list.  I'll wait, go ahead.


Scary, right?

I normally juice my own oranges and use that.  I didn't have any oranges to juice, so I opted for the apple juice we choose to drink in our home.  Ingredient list, not as scary.  If you have a juicer, just juice out whatever combination of fruits/veggies  that you think would taste yummy and go with it.

Next, you need gelatin.  Not the stuff from the jello aisle either.  I use Great Lakes unflavored gelatin.  It's a pure protein source and I use it to thicken gravies and add to other dishes for an extra kick of protein (like when I make homemade flavored rice, I'll throw some of that in there).  I use it as a thickening agent in sauces too.
The ingredient list, also not as scary as that stuff in the jello aisle.  But, we need to be realistic here.  I mean, you do know what gelatin is, right?    

...and, that's it

Take 2 cups of your juice, put into a pot, add 2 Tablespoons of gelatin and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, then let cool for 1 minute and transfer to either a bowl or mold to set in the fridge for 4 hours.

I don't add a sweetener, I think it tastes fine as is.

So, when Chris comes home from school he'll be able to enjoy a tasty Halloween treat that just so happens to be healthy for him as well.

We don't have to be all gloom and doom about food allergies.  We need to cast off this mindset that it's restricting.  We just need to look mindfully at what we have been eating and what we should be eating.

We will find out on Monday exactly what Chris is allergic to.  He will dress up for trick or treating and enjoy 3 hours of running the streets loading up on as much candy as he can.  But, we will follow the same rules we have followed in our home for years - you can pick out 30 pieces to have as treats, one a day and only when you ask, and the rest is going to a local charity.

He will not be able to indulge in one family tradition that we have on Halloween though, and that is eating candy for dinner tonight.  

Hold off, let me explain!

When you normally don't eat crap every day, when you do eat crap, you get sicker faster.  They only get a handful of candy in before they get stomach aches.  Then, they eat real food for dinner.

So, we will focus on the merriment and spectacle of the holiday and embrace Halloween for the fun day that it is.  

Here is the link to Mama Natural's recipe

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


As in manipulative of a mouse.

And not this

More like this

Anyway, we have them.  We have 5 confirmed caught and disposed of.  We have 3 missing sticky traps, 1 missing snap trap and 1 missing box of decon.

I use the term "we" very loosely here.  I have purchased the traps.  I have placed the traps.  I have not seen the outcome.

I can smell it though.

Because I have a missing box of decon from under the kitchen sink.



Let me just point out that this is in no way a reflection of the cleanliness of my home.

What this is, though, is a living example of the flipping food chain.

We live in "the country" and I use that term really, really flippantly.  We are surrounded by land, and lots of it, and it's not all ours.  We live in a town that is considered the final "civilized" area prior to going any further south.  Then, you are really in the country.

So, this land ...

Okay, here is why we are experiencing this now

1) We had a cat.  She passed away earlier this year.  That doesn't matter because she was too old to really kill anything.  I'm just noting this as hilarity ensues later in this post.
2) We had two feral or outdoor cats that patrolled the land around our home.  I don't know where in the hell they are now.  I haven't seen them for months.
3) We had coyotes who patrolled the area as well
4) Where are the hawks at?  I usually have like 3 flying around here.
5) Not as many bats or owls either

... see where I'm going?

I have a breakdown in the food chain that has resulted in a population explosion of mice who think that my home is the perfect place to camp out.  

We still haven't pin pointed how they are getting in.  We are assuming it is somehow related to the sewer stack...but, at this point I seriously don't know.

But, they are contained to the bottom cabinets in the kitchen and my oldest sons crawl space.

So, I mean, there is that.  At least they are not taking over everything.

But, still, I HAVE MICE!

I knew that we had a problem, when I walked into the house to find my 15 year old carrying a pellet gun.  I asked him what was wrong?  He responded "we caught a mouse".  My first thought was "great, get it out".  My second thought was "you are not that good of a shot kid, put the gun away".

Because we have a box of missing decon we now have decomp occurring somewhere.  I'm also duct taping Black Ice scented evergreen car fresheners in all of the cabinets until we can handle the clean up.  That will require ripping up the bottoms of cabinets.

Also, I feel like a serial killer using car fresheners to mask the stench of decomp in my home.

I also now own 3 cone fresheners and 4 scented candles.

So, in trying to figure out, why now, my husband suggested that we get another cat.

I don't think so.

I am responsible for too many living things right now, I'm not adding a cat into the mix.

Plus, like I mentioned above, it's a breakdown in the food circle.  That's what's caused this.  I don't need to add another mouth to feed to the house in order to fit this.

What I need is a flame thrower.

And more scented evergreens.

Mainly, a flame thrower.  


Monday, October 27, 2014

Chicago Botanic Garden - Farmers Market, Midwest Fruit Explorers Show and Sell, and Spooktacular Model Railroad Garden {spon}

On Sunday, October 19th I visited the Chicago Botanic Gardens to not only enjoy the absolutely beautiful grounds, but also to take in their Farmers Market, the Midwest Fruit Explorers Show & Sell, and tour the Model Railroad Garden with my two youngest sons. The following post is my own opinion.  I was compensated with complimentary admission for myself and two of my children to gain admittance into the Chicago Botanic Gardens as well as their Model Railroad Garden.  I chose October 19th to visit so that I could specifically experience their Farmers Market and the Midwest Fruit Explorers Show & Sell.

I had never been to the Chicago Botanic Garden before.  Actually, I didn't even know that such a place existed.  Part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County and nestled right off of a major expressway, sits this absolutely fabulous place!  

I had specifically chosen Sunday, October 19th to visit because not only would their Farmers Market be set up for visitors BUT the Midwest Fruit Explorers Show & Sell would be happening as well. And that, well, that made my homesteading and self-sufficiency senses tingle.  That sounds like a truly enjoyable time to me. Add to that the opportunity to be outside on a lovely day during my favorite time of the year and well, it just can't get any better than that.  Oh wait, I got to drink hand pressed, fresh apple cider...that was pretty amazing as well.

The garden is a 385-acre living plant museum.  As part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, it's flowers, trees and shrubs are there as exhibits for everyone to enjoy.

One of the most amazing things that I learned was they grow fruits and vegetable on site to sell at their Farmers Market.

They also had local vendors there selling their produce, honey/bees wax items and ferments.  It is a stunning location to have a Farmers Market.

We got to walk around the Fruit & Vegetable Garden, which is an island located in the North Lake.  It was so cool!  We got to see how they use cold frames to extend the growing season, how they are utilizing small spaces and vertical gardening  in addition to ornamental planting of vegetables.  Oh, and the bee hives!  It was so neat to see the bees so active.

From the Fruit & Vegetable Garden we made our way to the Model Railroad Garden.  I have to admit, I really didn't expect my 10 year old to be into the whole thing.  He outgrew his obsession with trains in 1st grade, so I really was expecting him to amuse me about the whole thing.  He actually had a lot of fun.

Once we entered the garden, Chris was given the opportunity to replant and take home a Green Wizard Cone Flower.

As we made our way through the garden, which was decorated for Halloween, there were garden staff handing out Halloween treats to the kids as they made their way along the path.  Both Chris and I though that it was pretty neat how famous places were represented in the garden.  We were even able to find places where we had visited, like Mount Rushmore. Will enjoyed all of the pumpkins and the water features.

From the Model Railroad Garden we made our way around the garden to the Regenstein Center.  We entered off of the greenhouse, which was a pretty neat experience.  But, first, we had to stop by the water, which Will enjoyed greatly.  

The Midwest Fruit Explorers Show & Sell was quite interesting.  Members from the organization where on hand to explain the different types on fruits and nuts that were on display, and discuss their uses as well as their history.


We got quite a lesson on apples, complete with the true story about Johnny Appleseed.

We had a lovely day at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  I am looking forward to going back there again. Hopefully to check out their Winter Farmers Market, the Fruit & Vegetable Garden (again) and the Model Railroad Garden (again)!  

You can find out more about the Chicago Botanic Garden by clicking here.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Crush Halloween {spon}

On Friday, October 17th I was invited to Odyssey Fun Farm in Tinley Park to participate in Crush Soda's family fun hayride "The Adventures of Harry, The Not So Scary Scarecrow".  The following post is my own opinion.  I was compensated with complimentary admission for myself and two of my children to gain admittance into Odyssey Fun Farm to cover the Crush Soda event.

The Chief Haunting Officer of Odyssey Fun Farm in Tinley Park, Scary Harry, invited me and my family to come out to enjoy a not so scary hayride.

Do you know what I remember from Halloween parties at school when I was a kid?  Two things, Jays Potato Chips (very Chicago) and Orange Crush in 2 liter bottles.  Oh, to be in 3rd grade again.

Unfortunately, only myself and my two younger sons were able to make the event.  We had a blast nonetheless.  Hopefully we were able to help Scary Harry #CrushHalloween.

The hayride, which featured sunbathing vampires, a football watching werewolf, a witch who couldn't fly, ghosts who couldn't scare and Dracula's son flying around the pumpkin patch on a stolen broom, was fun for all ages from start to finish.

Scary Harry kept the kids entertained, the parents engaged and the little ones laughing.

My 10 year old had this to say about the hayride:
What did you like about the hayride? "That there was a whole bunch of funny stuff like the vampires sunbathing."
Did you think that it was scary? "No"
Is that okay that it wasn't scary? "Yes, so you don't get freaked out."
Would you go on it again? "Yes"

If my 19 month old yelled "Punkin" most of the time and didn't cry once.

I think that's a win, win all around.

Our biggest challenge during the hayride was trying to get our scariest "BOO" worked up to scare the ghosts.

We were offered some Orange Ogre Crush Soda at the end of the hayride.  We had to refuse it due to food allergies, though.  It was nice to be able to enjoy a hayride that wasn't too scary for my kids to enjoy and funny enough to keep them entertained.  I think THAT is a sweet deal.

After the hayride we were able to enjoy Odyssey Fun Farm for a short bit, which both kids enjoyed greatly.  Chris loved the inflatable floor and Will was a big fan of all the "Punkins!!"


Thank you to Crush Soda for the invite out to enjoy "The Adventures of Harry, The Not So Scare Scarecrow" and to Odyssey Fun Farm for the complimentary admission.

You can find out more about Crush Soda and the Halloween Themed soda that they have to offer this season by checking out their website here.  You can like them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here.  Be sure to #CrushHalloween!

You can find out more about Odyssey Fun Farm and what they have to offer this season by checking out their website here.  You can like them on Facebook here, and follow them on Twitter here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Staying in the Now

I think that there is something to be said about staying in the now.  And, this can be taken many different ways.  What I'd like to focus on, though, is the season.  Staying in Fall.

This can be difficult right now.  Walk into any big box store and you'd swear that a new holiday had been introduced, under the radar like, while we were sleeping.

What exactly is Hallow-giving-mas?

Oh, wait, there are the clearance Back to School items that have been out since June... *eye roll*

Here is how we do it at our home:

It's October

On October 1st is when we put out our decorations for the holidays occurring in October.  In this case, Halloween.  Fall themed items are out as well, and they will stay out through the end of November.

We discuss Halloween costumes in October

We go to the pumpkin patch in October

We watch Halloween themed movies in October

We have traditions in place, we honor them for the unity of our family and to bond with our children. To teach them that family, time with family and traditions with family are important.  That they are not lone ships at sea.

And, we do the same thing every year.

We go to the pumpkin patch (sometimes on Columbus Day when everyone is off).

We wait until the weekend before Halloween and carve our pumpkins, roast their seeds, make taffy apples and watch the Nightmare Before Christmas.

We will watch The Great Pumpkin.

We will go out as a family and trick or treat.

We will celebrate the moment, this exact time, because it is good.

We do not go to a "Halloween Land" pumpkin patch, we prefer one that in not overly commercialized. One where you have to actually pick your pumpkin off of its vine.  One where you have to traipse through mud and dirt and sit on hay.  One that connects you with nature, not with things.

We try not to purchase pre-made costumes, we prefer to make our own by some form or fashion.

We try to make it as simple and stress-free as possible, because it is good.  


Monday, October 13, 2014

Throwing in the Teal Pumpkin

So, this is going to start off with an apology.

I am sorry for all of the times that I said that nut allergy restrictions on school foods were stupid.

I will not be apologizing for the stink fit I threw with regards to Cody's 5th Grade Halloween Party where "healthy" snack options like fruit salad and pretzels were mandated for the class party.  That was just stupid and had nothing to do with kids with allergies and more to do with Michelle Obama.


This year I'm throwing in the Teal Pumpkin.

FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) has come up with the Teal Pumpkin Project.  It is encouraging people to offer non-food items as treats for Halloween this year for children who have food allergies.

Why now, after my long standing stance of food allergy parents being complete psychos about food, thus not allowing me to fulfill my dreams of being the room mom who brought homemade baked goods to every stinking school party and participated in bake sales with items that I made and did not come with an ingredient list label?

Because I have become that mom.

Do you know how hard it is to find gluten free, soy free and dairy free anything?

Like, really hard.

I have the luxury of having a child with a food allergy who is older.  I can, and have, told him that if he eats anything that I don't give him he can stop breathing and die.  I know, it's extreme, but it's the course we are on until we can pinpoint what exactly he is allergic to.  Plus, I don't expect people to cater to my kids weird dietary restrictions, we pack our own food wherever we go.

But, I get it.  I know how hard it is now.  I know how scary it can be.

Plus, I love Halloween.  It's like my favorite holiday and I want not only my child to enjoy it, but everyone.  And, if that means that I have to go to Target and get a jumbo box of Halloween tattoos to hand out as a non-food option, then that's what I'm going to do.  I'm also going to print the flier from the Teal Pumpkin Project and tape it to my front door and make a cardboard teal pumpkin to put by the end of our driveway so that trick-or-treaters can see it from the street corner.

I don't know how widespread this project will be this year.  I don't know if any of the parents who have kids with food allergies in my neighborhood even know that this exists.  But, I will do my part to help spread the word and inform them, and I will hopefully help a little kid who can't have candy enjoy Halloween a little more this year.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

October is a lot of things

The month of October is known for a lot of different causes and awareness issues.

I want to share a little bit on October as National Bullying Prevention Month.

It's no secret that one of the reasons that we chose to homeschool in 2010 was because of the bullying that Cody was experiencing.  It wasn't even just in school, like the physical building, it was on the bus and in the neighborhood.  It was ridiculous.

It just kind of seemed like our son was "that kid", the one that bullies targeted and picked on. Which, was and still is kind of shocking.  Being the tallest kid, heads above those who tormented him (and they were a full grade older than him), you'd think that his size would deter it in some way.  It didn't.

It started in kindergarten.

How sad is that, it started in kindergarten.

We talked to his teacher and we enrolled him in a karate class that focused on self-defense.

We encouraged him to not take it, to not allow anyone to physically hurt him by pinching or hitting or kicking.  We encouraged him to tell a trusted adult at school immediately when it happened.  That he was not someone else's punching bag.

We even told him that if he defended himself, and fought back that he would never be in trouble at home and that we would defend him at school, but to realize that the school has rules and if you break them there are repercussions.  BUT, he would never be in trouble with us if he defended himself in a physical altercation.

It didn't matter, it still happened.

He wanted to be liked.

He wanted to be popular.

He wanted to have friends.

But, non of those things, being liked or popular or having friends means that the other person is allowed to treat you like shit, to hurt you.

He didn't understand that, and, it took him YEARS to get to a place of understanding with that.  And, no, I don't know why.

When we moved to a new town with a new school he would be attending in 2nd grade it was a game changer.  It was bullying on steroids.  It was NUTS.  I talk with my friend who has a son the same age as Cody, who attended the same school district (not same elementary school) and we both thinks there was something in the water that those kids were drinking.  That group, that entire 3 year age group on kids, my goodness.  Intense doesn't even describe the level of bullying that was going on.

With this change in group and level, we had to up our game, too.

The worse of it all was the bus.  In my opinion, the school bus is a mobile torture devise, I'm sorry.

The hardest thing that I ever had to do was sit in my van at the end of my driveway and videotape my child being hit with rocks and sticks and get water poured on his head at the bus stop prior to school. Why?
Because the phone calls, emails and visits to the school to express my concern were falling on deaf ears.
Because my child was hating, HATING school.  He would run home from his bus stop to avoid the bullies who were roaming the streets after school looking for him.
No joke...

We had him in karate
We put him in wrestling
We repeatedly tried to reinforce in him that being picked on was not okay.  That standing up for himself was his right.

I don't want to say that non of it helped, but the bullying continued.

The best year of his public schooling career prior to high school was 5th grade.  Because in 6th grade you were considered a middle schooler and attended school in a different building, on a different bus route & on a different time schedule.  He flourished in 5th grade.  He also didn't leave the house to play outside with friends fearing running into the bullies.  He got into his first fist fight that year, he punch a kid in the nose, he met his limit and wasn't taking it anymore from that kid.  The kid fell flat to the ground.  He also never picked on Cody again.

6th grade was tough.  I drove him to and from school.  That limited his exposure to them, but they were still in the halls and still on the streets.  By October we had made up our minds, we were pulling him.  There was more to our decision than just the bullies.  Leadership with the school was floundering.  Academically, they wouldn't push Cody to do more or try harder.  He wasn't a trouble maker and he did what he was told.  He was the perfect wall-flower.

For the first 3 months that we homeschooled he decompressed.  Everything came out.  We sought professional help and he talked more about what happened, what his fears were and we helped him through it.

I realize that homeschooling isn't an option for everyone.  It was for us, and we are for fortunate. What it afforded us was the opportunity to build up our child's self worth.  Let him explore and try new things without fear of being teased or beaten up.  It allowed him to form his own sense of self.  And I will always be grateful for that.  He's a stronger and more independent person.  He knows who he is.

I think that we need to move away from the "ignore the bully" mentality and help those being bullied not feel like it's their fault, they are victims enough. I'm saying that as a mother of a child who was bullied.
Now, what I would also encourage is finding out why the bully is bullying.  Where do they need help?  A kid doesn't just wake up one day and say "Hey, I'm going to throw a rock at Cody." What has happened to lead up to that point? Something else is going on.

We are fortunate enough to have the belief that mental health is just as important and physical health, so seeing a mental health professional isn't a foreign idea.
We were also fortunate enough to have the ability to pull our child and homeschool him.  To allow him that opportunity.
We also teach our children to never, under any circumstances, to allow another person (male or female) to physically or verbally be mean to them or hurt them.  We don't care if it's a "friend" or a family member or some random kid at the park.  It doesn't fly.  We won't tolerate it, neither should they.
We are building our sons up, teaching them to be individuals and leaders confident in themselves, their beliefs and their thoughts & actions, and that they don't have to take anyone else's shit.
They need to be compassionate, just, fair, understanding and show empathy - they don't need to be doormats. To anyone.      

Friday, October 3, 2014

{Indian Boundary Line Homestead Bounty} Tomatoes

Welcome to my garden

Let's talk tomatoes, shall we?

I am really sick of the cherry & plum tomatoes that have taken over my garden, and here is why


See, I make tomato sauce.  I use nice big, ripe tomatoes for that.  And I fill my canning closet with shelves and shelves of tomato sauce every year.  Enough, in fact, to last us entire year.

You know what I don't have a whole lot of right now?

*eye roll*

I delayed starting my garden this year, you can read about that here.  The thing is, it doesn't matter that I delayed starting my garden because this year has been crappy all around weather wise for growing stuff.  Well, stuff that I want to grow.

Tomatoes, being one of those things.

This is what I'm dealing this right now.


...and, no - I'm not going to batter and fry them

Every year we host Christmas Eve for my husband's side of the family.  We typically get about 25 people, give or take about 5, and my husband makes his Grandfather's famous spaghetti sauce for dinner.

He needs 10 quarts of tomato sauce to make it.

Guess what he won't have this year?

I have yet to can one quart of tomatoes this year.  I have tons of tomato paste (I use those cherry and plum tomatoes to make that), but I rarely use tomato paste.

So, here we are on October 3rd with a cold front rolling in and a garden full of green tomatoes.

It was a sad year for the garden this year.